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Stringer to MTA: Give a lift to city subway riders

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by patrick arden / metro new york

August 7, 2006

GREENWICH VILLAGE - Michael Harris was surprised to find the elevator on Sixth Avenue working yesterday at the West 34th Street subway station. Last year it didn't work for a total of 134 days.

"This elevator has actually been out of service more than it's been in service," said Harris, of the Disabled Riders Coalition. "It was installed in May 2005, and from August to December it was not operational for a single day."

Straphangers routinely come upon elevators and escalators that don't work. But for disabled riders, the elderly and people with children, this routine fact brings major hardships. A study released yesterday by Borough President Scott Stringer found 78 percent of all Manhattan subway-station elevators were not even inspected from 2002 through 2005. Under the city's building code, elevators and escalators must be inspected and tested a minimum of five times every two years.

"When the MTA reads this report, they're going to find out they've been in violation of the law for four years," Stringer said. "It has shown no concern for the people this impacts."

NYC Transit had not seen the report yesterday but promised to respond to it.

Accessible stations

Just 53 of the city's 468 subway stations meet requirements laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Some of those stations are only compliant on one platform," complained Harris, who noted that accessible stations are "few and far between," especially for the 65,000 New Yorkers in wheelchairs. "The MTA can't even maintain the 150 elevators at these 53 stations."

Yesterday Harris had to take a bus and make three transfers because two station elevators were broken. If the elevator didn't work at West 34th Street, the next accessible station is at 34th Street. But that elevator wasn't working yesterday, so he would have had to go to 125th Street. If that one didn't work, he couldn't get off until Yankee Stadium. "You may have to go to another borough," Harris said.

'Stupid' hotline

NYC Transit runs a hotline (800-734-6772) with information about broken elevators, but "it's really pretty stupid," said Edith Prentiss, of Disabled in Action. Yesterday, she said, there was no mention of problems at 34th Street.

"Too many elevators are out too often," Prentiss said. "It's interesting to hear the same elevator out every time you call. You wonder, did they ever try to fix it?"

Stringer called for better signage and more announcements to prevent stranding people in the subway. He also recommended the MTA form an advisory council to represent people with disabilities.

The subway needs a lot of improvements, said John Gresham, of the Center for Independence of the Disabled. The high turnstiles present problems for people using guide dogs, and many stations don't clearly mark the edge of platforms.

"The MTA runs a course for blind people on what to do if you fall on the tracks," Gresham said. "I would far rather see them get the edges marked and reduce the need for people to know that."

Gaining access

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority had no subway stations accessible to the disabled until a 1984 consent decree called for 100 "key" accessible stations by 2020. A key station offers access to other lines or is near a major landmark. Today, the subway has 53 accessible stops, and 48 of them are key stations.



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